Publication Date: 8 September, 2017
Myanmar yet to respond to UNHCR appeal on Rohingya crisis
Media: The Independent
Original Link: Myanmar yet to respond to UNHCR appeal on Rohingya crisis
The Myanmar government has not responded to the call of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to resume humanitarian aid in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and to stop the ongoing violence. Ever since the Myanmar government banned the services of 20 UN aid agencies in Rakhine State citing security reasons, over 250,000 people are said to be stuck there and leading a sub-human existence.
UNHCR, UNFPA, WFP and UNICEF have been barred from entering Rakhine state since August 25. Myanmar is not allowing more than 16 non-government organisations, including Save the Children and Oxfam, along with UN agencies, to enter the region.
In an interview, UNHCR South Asian spokesperson Vivian Tan told The Independent on Wednesday: “We called the Myanmar government to stop the violence and to allow immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance. But our representative has received no response from them until now in this regard.”
“Amid the continuing violence in Rakhine State, we’ve still no access to Maungdaw and the surrounding areas. We appeal to the Myanmar government to permit us to resume humanitarian aid in the region,” she said.
“The situation in Myanmar is very complicated. We’re not getting first-hand reports. We’re only hearing incidents from the media. We’re getting two-sided views of everything, one given by the Myanmar government and another by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Civilians are caught in the middle of the two conflicting units and are in a very difficult position,” she added.
Tan said that only the Myanmar government can resolve the Rohingya crisis. Unless the root cause of the problem is properly addressed in Myanmar, Rohingya refugees would continue to cross over to Bangladesh, she added.
“We’ve been discussing this issue for a long time with the Myanmar government,” she said, adding that they should lift restrictions on Rohingyas so that they could move more freely, address the citizenship issue, promote dialogue between communities, and promote economic development in Rakhine state.
She also said that the Bangladesh government has done a lot for Rohingyas since the 1970s and lauded Dhaka’s gesture to give them temporary shelter.
“Rohingya refugees walk for days to flee the violence. They don’t eat for many days. Some of them are seriously ill. We’re working to give them a roof over their heads. We want to ensure food and medical treatment for them. Currently, we’re focusing on their immediate and basic needs of to save their lives,” she explained.
The major challenge, of course, is to arrange food, water and medicines for them, she noted. “We are trying to fulfil the inalienable rights of Rohingyas who have taken shelter in our two camps,” she said. According to Tan, some 30,000 Rohingyas have taken shelter in two camps at Kutupalong and Nayapara.
She, however, said it is really difficult to tell how many Rohingyas remain outsie the camps. They could be taken care of only after their whereabouts and number are ascertained, she added.
She said that even though two camps at Kutupalong and Nayapara are full, Rohingya refugees continue to stream into Bangladesh. The new entrants are staying in different places, she added.
“Some 1,46,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh till today (Wednesday). They are being accommodated by a number of organisations. Thousands are approaching us every day,” she said.
The UNHCR spokesperson said Rohingyas entering Bangladesh must be registered on an urgent basis. Otherwise, it would be difficult for them to return to their own country, she noted.
“We have been telling the government to register them as they come. They are going off to different places and will mingle with the local people, and it will be difficult to distinguish between new arrivals, old arrivals and native Bangladeshis,” she said.
“If we don’t have any list of Rohingyas, how will we ask the Myanmar government to consider the matter voluntarily and to take back their nationals?” she added.